Zuma de­nies ‘stolen cash’ prom­ise

Mail & Guardian - - News -

In 1997 for­mer Bri­tish spy Michael Oat­ley signed an agree­ment with the South African gov­ern­ment that en­ti­tled him to a 10% com­mis­sion on any il­licit apartheid-era funds his com­pany, Ciex, man­aged to re­cover.

If that agree­ment was ap­plied to pub­lic pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane’s find­ing that Absa re­ceived such funds, Oat­ley’s cut would come to R112.5-mil­lion

— a cut he was ap­par­ently told came with the per­sonal guar­an­tee of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, ac­cord­ing to newly emerged doc­u­ments.

Among doc­u­ments re­leased by Mkhwe­bane is a 2014 let­ter from Oat­ley to for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief Billy Masetlha, who signed the 1997 agree­ment with Oat­ley. In it, Oat­ley records what he says Masetlha told him: “At your meet­ing with the pres­i­dent on the evening of April 14, Pres­i­dent Zuma in­di­cated his in­ten­tion to ap­point a panel to ad­vise him on the gov­ern­ment’s claim against Absa/Bar­clays and the po­ten­tial for re­cov­er­ing the monies stolen in the so-called Absa ‘lifeboat’ con­spir­acy.”

Zuma had promised to take ac­tion soon af­ter the 2014 elec­tion, just weeks away, the let­ter re­flects, and “he con­firmed recog­ni­tion of the con­tin­u­ing Ciex en­ti­tle­ment to com­mis­sion”.

That as­sur­ance would stand Oat­ley in good stead in any fu­ture claim for money — and would also rep­re­sent eye-pop­ping in­ter­fer­ence in what was then a long-drag­ging in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the pub­lic pro­tec­tor.

But Zuma on Thurs­day flatly rub­bished the let­ter. “The pres­i­dent was not in­volved in the meet­ing in ques­tion,” his spokesper­son, Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga, said. Masetlha did not re­spond to ef­forts to reach him. Oat­ley has pre­vi­ously re­fused to speak to the Mail & Guardian with­out “guar­an­tees of con­fi­den­tial­ity and non-at­tributabil­ity”. —

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